Note: This is the first and longest in a series of four posts describing the details of Metro’s proposed “Alternative 1” restructure, which would take effect at the same time as the planned March 2016 opening of Sound Transit’s University Link. “Alternative 1” is the more ambitious of Metro’s two U-Link proposals. Our overview of both proposals, and our short description of the minimum-change “Alternative 2,” is here. Although these posts are under my byline, they owe a huge amount to the hard work of the entire STB staff, particularly Zach Shaner.
There’s one essential fact about Alternative 1 in Northeast Seattle: It creates a real 15-minute grid, no excuses. Overnight, there would be 15-minute or better bus service, all day, to almost every place east of I-5 and north of the ship canal—including neighborhoods far from a Link station, and a huge number of places that have never had 15-minute bus service, ever. And the service would be in an easy-to-understand grid pattern. Alternative 1 would establish all of these frequent corridors, spaced 1/2 to 1 mile apart, with newly frequent corridors in blue:
- UW Station-University Way-Ravenna-Roosevelt Way (to Northgate): Route 67 (10 minutes)
- (additional service south of N 65th St on 15-minute Route 45)
- Roosevelt Way/15th Ave NE (north of Northgate): Routes 347/348 (15 minutes)
- 25th Ave NE-Lake City Way: Route 372 (15 minutes)
- 35th Ave NE: Route 65 (15 minutes)
- Sand Point Way: Route 75 (15 minutes)
- UW Station-Children’s Hospital: Route 255 (15 minutes)
- (additional eastbound service on 15-minute Route 65)
- Fremont-U-District-UW Campus-Children’s Hospital: Routes 31/32/75 (15 minutes)
- (additional westbound service to UW Campus on 15-minute Route 65)
- U-District-45th St-Market: Route 44 (15 minutes)
- Wallingford-65th St-Sand Point: Route 16 (15 minutes)
- Roosevelt-Green Lake-85th St: Route 45 (15 minutes)
- Northgate Way-Lake City: Route 75 (15 minutes)
- NE 125th St: Route 41 (15 minutes)
- NE 145th St: Route 65 (15 minutes)
And remember, these frequency levels are before further improvements using the City of Seattle’s Proposition 1 funds.
Now that we’ve talked about the real 15-minute grid—did I convey how exciting this is?—let’s look at Alternative 1’s Northeast Seattle changes in closer detail. In Northeast Seattle, it’s remarkable how positive the effects will be. Some changes will force transfers, but very few will make trips significantly slower or take away service from riders—which is not true in some other areas within the scope of Alternative 1.
U-District to Downtown Connection. The biggest gamble Metro is taking in this restructure is making U-District-downtown riders transfer at UW Station outside peak hours. Current U-District express service becomes peak-hour-only, with 10-minute frequency. Routes 71 and 72 disappear, route 73 is truncated to Green Lake P&R and reduced to peak-only, and route 74 stays unchanged. Middays, evenings, and weekends, most U-District-downtown riders will use Link between downtown and UW Station, transferring to a bus for the last mile. Fortunately, Metro is putting frequency in place to make this transfer fairly painless. Between UW Station and the U-District, there will be better than 3-minute frequency running along Pacific Street and either The Ave or 15th Ave NE.
Those still determined to have a one-seat ride can use frequent, but slow, routes 49 or 70, or walk to the I-5/45th freeway station to catch frequent Route 512. It’s worth noting that Alternative 1 provides for Metro-funded service on route 70 nights and weekends—one of the largest line items the City of Seattle is funding with Proposition 1. It will be interesting to see how the city reallocates those Proposition 1 funds.
Other U-Link Transfers. Metro, Sound Transit, and UW are still working out the final details of U-Link to bus transfers at UW Station. Given how many trips will rely on U-Link, these transfers are critically important. The current plan is as follows:
- Montlake Blvd: Provide new stops along Montlake just north of Pacific in both directions, for Route 255 riders. Provide an additional northbound stop near
Hec Edthe Alaska Arena for Routes 65 (which turns onto Montlake from Pacific Pl) and 255.
- Pacific St: Move current UW Medical Center stops to the east, to allow shorter walking distances for transfers. The westbound stop would serve all-day routes 44, 45 (48N), 67, 70, and 542, while the eastbound stop would serve all-day routes 48, 271, and 542.
- Pacific Pl: The current layover zone would remain in place, serving routes 44 and 70. There would also be a non-layover stop serving Route 65.
- Stevens Way (UW Campus): Metro is seeking to re-space bus stops along Stevens Way to provide stops directly at Rainier Vista, which would be about 1000 feet from the UW Station entrance. We have heard that the UW is resisting, because it fears imperiling Rainier Vista views. This is an important priority for riders, though, and UW should accommodate the move. The current stops are 300 to 500 feet further away than stops at Rainier Vista would be; they are over a quarter-mile from the station. Wherever the stops end up, the westbound stop will serve all-day routes 31, 32, and 65, while the eastbound stop will serve all-day routes 75 and 372.
We’ve known from the beginning that UW Station transfers would be awkward, because UW Station is so far from the center of campus and from existing bus stops, and also because southbound Montlake Blvd is too unreliable to accommodate much bus service. The agencies are doing a good job of optimizing transfers to the extent possible with existing infrastructure, but there will still be too many long walks and street crossings. We continue to hope UW will become more receptive to innovative ideas that go beyond the current public right-of-way, even if they cost a few parking spots.
Roosevelt and Maple Leaf Consolidation. All-day service on routes 66, 67, 73, and the Maple Leaf portion of route 68 would be consolidated into new frequent route 67, running every 10 minutes between UW Station and Northgate Transit Center. The route would use The Ave south of Ravenna, and Roosevelt Way north of Ravenna, using Northgate Way to reach NTC. South of 65th, service along the corridor would be reinforced by Route 45, running every 15 minutes. New route 67 would be through-routed with Route 48 to the Central District and Mount Baker.
Roosevelt Way south of Ravenna Blvd would no longer have service; riders would walk three blocks to The Ave. The City of Seattle may eventually restore service to this section of Roosevelt, despite its proximity to other service corridors. A BRT trolleybus corridor along the southern part of Roosevelt is in Mayor Murray’s Move Seattle plan. The city’s planned corridor would make sense once North Link opens. Alternative 1 would send route 70 east to UW Station after reaching the U-District. With North Link in place, sending route 70 north on Roosevelt to Roosevelt Station would be more legible.
In Maple Leaf, service along 5th Ave NE and 15th Ave NE would be peak-only. Revised peak-only route 66 (to be further covered in our downtown/SLU post) would serve 5th Ave NE, and unchanged routes 77 and 373 would serve 15th Ave NE. Current off-peak route 73 riders north of Northgate would need to use routes 347/348, transferring to route 67 at Roosevelt Way and Northgate Way. (Thankfully, these riders would not need to endure the agonizing crawl to Northgate TC.)
Serve All The Places! New Route 16. Thinking outside the box, Metro would replace the portion of route 71 running along NE 65th St with a heavily revised route 16, running every 15 minutes. The route would connect Sand Point, south Wedgwood, Ravenna, Roosevelt, Green Lake, Wallingford, and Fremont, before heading into downtown using current route 26/28 routing on Dexter Avenue. This routing would no longer provide a reasonable one-seat ride downtown for most NE Seattle riders, but would open up a tremendous number of frequent neighborhood connections throughout North Seattle.
Peak-hour downtown riders from Ravenna and Wedgwood would enjoy additional peak trips on route 76, but off-peak downtown riders would use newly frequent north-south service on routes 67, 372, 65, or 75 to connect with UW Link. This change will bring more benefits when North Link opens in 2021; then, the revised route 16 will provide excellent transfers from many neighborhoods to Roosevelt Station.
The portion of route 16 connecting Green Lake and Northgate would be replaced by half-hourly service on an extended (and all-day) route 26X.
The revised route 16 would have some knock-on effects in Wallingford and Fremont. Riders from central Wallingford would see their trip downtown slowed by up to ten minutes as a result of route 16’s move from Aurora to Dexter, but in exchange would get more frequency and a new connection to central Fremont. On the other hand, both routes 26 and 28 would use Aurora rather than Dexter to reach downtown, speeding downtown trips for their riders, but losing the Fremont connection of route 26. For the first time in years, Downtown Wallingford and Downtown Fremont would have a direct, frequent connection.
New Children’s and U-Village Connections. As we’ll cover more fully in our SR-520 post, frequent route 255 (which today connects downtown and Kirkland via SR-520) would see a major change. Rather than serving downtown, most trips would exit SR-520 at Montlake and force downtown passengers to transfer to UW Link. But, since there is no layover space planned near UW Station beyond the trolleybus layover already used for Route 44, the revised route 255 has to go somewhere else to lay over. Metro is electing to send it north and east on Montlake Boulevard, to a new terminal at the southwest corner of Children’s Hospital. This would radically improve weekday transit accessibility for both Children’s and U-Village, possibly at the cost of reliability for Kirkland-bound riders because southbound Montlake is so prone to afternoon congestion. If Children’s pays for some of this 255 service in lieu of their current shuttles, the 255 change may even be a revenue positive move, freeing up resources to beef up the rest of the network.
In addition, route 65 would provide further connectivity between UW Station and these destinations by using a new live-loop at its south end. Southbound, it would go through campus; then it would use 15th Ave NE and Pacific St to reach UW Station, and proceed northbound on Montlake.
New Eastside Connections. UW Station would gain all-day frequent service to Bellevue, Eastgate, Kirkland, and Redmond. Route 255 would be modified to serve UW Station and Children’s Hospital, as described above. Route 542, connecting the U-District and Redmond, would become frequent all-day service. Route 271 would connect Bellevue with Roosevelt, Green Lake, and much of northwest Seattle, as it would be through-routed with route 45.
Detailed Route-By-Route Changes. The following list explains what would happen to each current route serving trips within NE Seattle under Alternative 1.
Route 25. Deleted. Connection between Children’s Hospital and UW Station replaced by frequent, much more direct route 255. Connectivity between Children’s Hospital and U-District replaced by higher frequency on routes 65 and 75. No replacement service to Laurelhurst loop or western Montlake, but those areas currently see an extremely small number of riders.
Route 30. Deleted. Peak-hour service provided by route 74. Off-peak, riders would use newly frequent north-south service on route 75, 65, 372, or 67. Sand Point riders could also use revised route 16.
Routes 31 and 32. Largely unchanged, except for serving Wallingford Ave to reach Fremont instead of 40th/Stone. All trips would be through-routed with route 75.
Route 41. Unchanged.
Route 44. Unchanged.
Route 48. Split in two. The south portion would be through-routed with route 67, preserving service to Roosevelt without a transfer, and would improve in frequency to 10 minutes. The north portion would be renumbered as Route 45 and through-routed with route 271 to Bellevue, but otherwise unchanged.
Route 64. Unchanged frequency and routing in NE Seattle. Downtown, routing would change to serve SLU and First Hill via Mercer, Fairview, and Boren. Downtown riders may need to walk a few blocks, or transfer to and from very frequent downtown service at Stewart/Olive and Boren.
Route 65. Would gain 15-minute all-day frequency. New routing in the U-District; would live loop counterclockwise via the UW campus, 15th Ave NE, Pacific St, and Montlake Blvd. Most northbound riders would need to board at new locations. Routing unchanged outside the U-District.
Route 66. Would become peak-only, and would be revised south of 65th to serve SLU and First Hill via I-5/Mercer/Fairview/Boren. Off-peak service would be replaced by route 67, running on Roosevelt Way in Maple Leaf, and on The Ave south of Ravenna. Off-peak downtown riders would transfer to UW Link from route 67. Service along Eastlake would be replaced by more frequent route 70, which would also run nights and Sundays.
Route 67. Would become 10-minute, all-day service. Routing would be heavily revised, to serve Roosevelt Way in Maple Leaf and The Ave south of Ravenna. Would connect to UW Station via Pacific St, rather than serve the campus loop. Would be through-routed with route 48 to 23rd Ave and Mount Baker.
Route 68. Deleted. Service along Roosevelt in Maple Leaf would be provided by frequent Route 67. No replacement service along NE 75th St; riders would need to walk to newly frequent north-south service on Route 67 or 372. Service along 25th Ave NE would be provided by newly frequent route 372.
Route 70. Would be expanded to run 7 days per week, and also on evenings and weekends. Its routing would change in the U-District to serve UW Station rather than the northern U-District, using Campus Parkway, 15th Ave NE, and Pacific St.
Route 71. Deleted. Downtown riders to the U-District or Roosevelt would use routes 73/74 at peak hours. Off-peak, they would transfer between route 45 or 67 and UW Link. East/west riders along NE 65th Street would use frequent route 16, now running east/west between Sand Point and Green Lake, or walk to newly frequent north-south service on routes 67, 372, 65, or 75.
Route 72. Deleted. Downtown riders to the U-District or Roosevelt would use routes 73/74 at peak hours. Off-peak, they would transfer between route 45 or 67 and UW Link. Riders between Lake City or northern Ravenna and the U-District would use newly frequent route 372. Riders between Roosevelt and Lake City would have two-seat rides on frequent service, which could be routes 75 and 67, routes 372 and 16, or routes 65 and 16.
Route 73. Would become peak-only, and be truncated to Roosevelt. Off-peak, downtown riders would transfer between route 45 or 67 and UW Link. Peak riders north of Roosevelt would use unchanged routes 77 or 373. Off-peak riders north of Roosevelt would use route 67, running on Roosevelt Way rather than 15th Ave NE. Off-peak riders north of Northgate would use routes 347 and 348, with a transfer to route 67 at Northgate Way and Roosevelt Way.
Route 74. Unchanged.
Route 75. Would gain 15-minute all-day frequency. Unchanged routing.
Routes 76 and 77. Unchanged, except to add a few trips on route 76. Downtown, both of these routes will move from the tunnel to the surface in September, a change that is separate from the restructure discussed here.
Routes 347 and 348. Unchanged.
Route 372. Would gain 15-minute all-day frequency, run nights and weekends, and gain additional peak trips to make up for lost capacity on route 68. Would be truncated to end in Bothell, but routing otherwise unchanged.
Route 373. Unchanged.
Route 522. Unchanged.
Route 542. This route would be truncated to the U-District, but gain 15-minute frequency and night and weekend service. Replacement service to Roosevelt and Green Lake would be provided by very frequent routes 45 and 67.
Route 556. Unchanged.